Centre Jamie Roberts wants Dragons to show their defensive steel against free-flowing Bristol Bears – as the British & Irish Lions star prepares for his regional debut for the Men of Gwent.
Roberts joined Dragons in August and will make his long-awaited full debut in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final with Bristol Bears tonight (kick-off 7.45pm).
The vastly experienced 33-year-old knows all about the threats that Bristol possess having tangled with the Bears during his spells in English rugby with Harlequins and Bath.
And he knows Dragons will need to show a resolute defensive edge to blunt the Bears and secure a famous European win at Ashton Gate.
“I’ve played against Bristol a few times in the English Premiership and I know how hard it is to play at Ashton Gate,” said Roberts, during a charity zoom event by BH Events for Noah’s Ark.
“It is a fast track and Bristol play a brand of rugby that, if you don’t try and stop them, they can walk in 50 points.
“We have got to go out there and impose our defensive game on Bristol because they are a very potent attacking side.
“We have all seen what they have done in the Premiership the last few years under Pat Lam, and probably more so since lockdown.
“They want to play positive rugby so our defence is under no illusions, if we don’t defend well on Friday night we will concede tries because they are a very good outfit.
“It’s a big challenge for the lads, but we have some quality players in the set-up and players who are there or thereabouts as Test players.
“They might have featured much on the Test scene yet, but they are established regional players and they will go flying into this game.
“It is all or nothing for us. Our domestic season is no longer and I hope this is not the end of this season.
“We know Bristol are fighting on both fronts, for the league and Europe, but it’s a great challenge for us.”
Roberts will make his debut for the region after settling into life at Ystrad Mynach and he admits he has been impressed by new boss Dean Ryan.
“I’ve only known Dean well for the last five or six weeks. But I have crossed paths with him over the years, playing against Gloucester and Worcester,” he said.
“He is a good man, an honest bloke. His role is different at the Dragons to what it would have been at Gloucester and Worcester.
“When you are at the sharp end of the English Premiership with relegation there is lots and lots of pressure, week in and week out. It was all about winning.
“At the Dragons his remit is also to help develop the squad and help grow what is a young squad.
“Over the short time we have been together he has been very honest, is very sociable with the lads and I am looking forward to playing under Dean and getting my first appearance on Friday night.”
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We have got to go out there and impose our defensive game on Bristol because they are a very potent attacking side...